Painting your walls can be pretty intimidating. It’s not a home update that’s permanent—but the time and financial investment definitely raise the stakes. So, choosing a paint color is not something many people take lightly!
And beyond paint color, there’s a whole slew of other decisions to make and tasks to tackle. What sheen do you choose? Should you paint your ceiling and trim as well? Can you skip the primer? It’s overwhelming, to say the least.
However, as experts in interior design, we’re well-acquainted with the process of picking paint colors and putting in the work to paint a room. With this experience (and the many mistakes we’ve made along the way) we’ve come up with a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts to help you out when choosing a paint color and painting your walls. Read on for our tips for painting a room and some guidelines to help you choose the right paint color for your space.
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Paint Color: Symphony Blue, Benjamin Moore
How Do You Choose A Paint Color?
Whether you’re painting an accent wall, choosing a trim color, or painting an entire room, the basic principles for choosing a paint color remain. Start by narrowing down your color options. Once you land on a high-level color, hone in on the shade and undertone you prefer.
But how do you choose the right color and shade?? Maybe you know you want to go with white paint on your walls. Well, do you want a bright white or something softer? Something with blue undertones or yellow? You quickly realize that white is not one color but one hundred. And, frankly, the same goes with most other colors as well!
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If you’re wondering how to even begin choosing a color palette and narrowing down what colors to consider out of the thousands of paint colors on the market, our Modsy designers can help. When you start a design project, you not only get your room designed in life-like 3D, but you also get to try on paint colors so you can see how the color will look with your furniture and decor!
And if you’re looking for some specific color tips, check out our posts on the best Benjamin Moore paint colors, the best bedroom paint colors, and the 2021 colors of the year from Pantone, Sherwin-Williams, and Benjamin Moore.
Paint Color: Cheating Heart, Benjamin Moore
Painting a Room: The Do’s & Don’ts
However, there are also some high-level do’s and don’ts that can help you narrow in on the right shade for your space. These tips will help you as you narrow down your color options.
Do: Paint a Swatch and See How it Looks
One of our favorite designer hacks to hone in on the right wall color is to get a sample can of paint and paint a 3×3-foot swatch on your wall of the color you’re considering, and observe it for a week. (Ideally somewhere obvious, like behind your sofa or above your bed, so it’s front and center throughout the day.)
See how the color feels in the space throughout the day. How does it look in morning light versus afternoon? What does it look like after the sun is set and your room is only lit by lamps? And how does the color interact with your furniture, decor, and finishings? The tones of a wall color will shift throughout the day, depending on the lighting and the surrounding environment—so it’s important to make sure you like your wall color at all times of the day.
And if you have colored decor in the room you’re going to paint—whether it’s bold throw pillows, bedding, or a rug—make sure to hold those items up to the painted patch to see how the colors interact.
Don’t: Ignore the View Outside Your Window
Did you know that the colors occurring outside of your home—your neighbor’s house, the building across the street, a wooded backyard—will impact how a color looks in your space? If your neighbor has a yellow house, your wall color will reflect more yellow tones back at you. That beautiful wooded backyard? You’ll likely get some green tones in your space. All the more reason to test out some color swatches before you commit!
Do: Consider the Colors and Tones of Your Flooring and Furniture
It’s not just the colors outside of your home that will impact how paint will look in your space. You’ll also want to consider the hues of your furniture and decor, as well as the colors and tones in your flooring. The color of your floor will reflect and cast hues on your walls in the same way that your neighbor’s house will. (So, that blue carpet or those red terracotta tiles will visually impact how a paint color looks in your room!)
And, in terms of furniture, you’ll want to make sure wood tones and upholstery colors interact well with the paint color you choose. You aren’t dealing with color reflection with these pieces as much—but you want to create a bit of contrast. So, if you have a light grey sofa, you probably don’t want to choose a light grey paint color. Maybe go for something a bit more bold on the walls? And if you have large pieces of wood furniture, or even wood flooring, consider offsetting the wood’s tone with the color you choose—aka use a cooler tone on your walls to offset warm wood tones in your floorboards or furniture, and vice versa. Have more than one wood tone to contend with? Check out our guide to mixing wood tones.
Paint Colors: Illuminating, Pantone
Kendall Charcoal, Benjamin Moore
Don’t: Be Afraid of Bolder Colors
Bold-colored rooms are fun and can add a vibrant touch to your space. But a bold wall color can feel intimidating, especially if you currently have neutral walls! Just take time to find the bold hue that suits your space, design style, and decor! One of our favorite ways to bring a bold wall color to life? The Jewel Box room—one of our 2021 trend predictions! Don’t want your whole room to be full of bold colors? Dip your toe in by just painting an inlet (pictured above) or try an accent wall of a bold color, with a neutral tone on the other walls!
Paint Color: In The Pink, Sherwin-Williams
Don’t: Pick a Trendy Color if You Don’t Love It
However, even if everyone else is painting their walls a certain color, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you (remember the Millennial Pink craze of the late 2010’s?)! While you don’t have to stick with a paint color forever, you do want to make sure the color you choose is one that makes sense for your style and your home. So, don’t choose a color just because it’s trendy!
Do: Pick the Right Sheen for Your Space
Interior paint comes in several different sheens. There’s glossy, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, and flat, to name a few. So, how do you know which sheen to choose? Well, the sheen you choose actually does matter, since different sheens are good for different looks and purposes.
An eggshell is the most popular sheen for interior walls. However, flat paint is matte and creates a more modern vibe, while semi-gloss and satin are great for walls and trim. Just consider this when choosing the right sheen for your space: the lower the sheen, the harder it is to clean. This is an especially important consideration in homes with kids and pets, where you’ll likely need to wipe down the walls more often! But it’s also a good consideration in kitchens, where splashes and spills happen when cooking, and wiping down the walls is required.
Paint Color: Alabaster, Sherwin-Williams
Tips for Painting a Room
Ok, so you’ve landed on a paint color. That’s great! With the thousands of paint colors out there, that’s no small feat. But now you actually need to do the work and put paint to walls. And that can be quite the daunting task! Here are some of our designers’ top tips for painting a room to help you get the best possible outcome!
Do: Paint in the Warmer Months
Spring and summer are good times of year to paint a room, since you can open windows for ventilation and get a breeze going. (You don’t want to fumigate yourself just to paint a wall!) Just make sure it’s not a super humid day, as paint won’t fully cure in hot and humid weather. And avoid rainy days too. Paining a room might seem like the perfect rainy summer day activity, but open windows, rain, and fresh paint don’t mix! Plus, with extra moisture in the air, like on a humid day, your paint will take longer to cure.
Don’t: Skip the Prep Work
Prep work makes all the difference when painting a room. It’s the difference between a sloppy or professional end result. Take the time to cover or move any furniture in the room you’re painting, tape your edges, and don’t forget to prime your walls. Priming is especially important when going from a darker to lighter paint color—but even if you’re sticking with neutral paint colors but opting for a different hue, priming will guarantee you get the exact color outcome you want rather than having weird undertones.
Paint Color: Lounge Green, Sherwin-Williams
Don’t: Ignore the Ceiling
The ceiling is part of the room too—so don’t forget to freshen it up alongside your painted walls! A fresh coat of white paint can make your new wall color pop. But you could also go bold and try the trend of painting your walls a more neutral color and going bold on your ceiling color!
Do: Freshen Up the Trim
A fresh coat of paint on your walls can truly transform a room. But don’t neglect the trim around your doors and windows! If your wall is fresh and nice but your trim is scuffed and dirty, your room simply won’t look as nice or finished.
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